The Suffolk County Water Authority board has trimmed a proposed 4.2 percent rate increase to 1.2 percent, citing sales of surplus land for the reduction.
The increase, adopted unanimously at a meeting Monday night, will add $3 more a year to the average bill of $340 for customers who use 160,000 gallons annually. The original proposal would have meant an average hike of $12 a year. The new rates take effect April 1.
James Gaughran, authority chairman, credited the smaller increase to the agency's sale of a half dozen surplus parcels over the past two years for a total of about $3 million. The sales are part of an ongoing authority initiative to sell as many as 400 acres and 40,000 square feet of building space.
The board decision followed the largest sale to date: 7.8 acres north of the Long Island Expressway in Islandia for $1.56 million. The sale, which closed last week, included granting the buyer a full access easement on another .79 acres located on the east side of Old Nichols Road off Exit 58. The authority is retaining 2.4 acres as a potential site for a future well field.
Gaughran said the board had the choice of using the sales to offset future borrowing costs or soften the impact of the pending rate hike. "We decided to give it back to the ratepayers," he said.
Gaughran said the sales also save the authority maintenance costs for the surplus properties and return land to the tax rolls.
The original proposed increase was for the fourth year of a five-year plan, recommended by outside consultants Black & Veatch, in which rates were to increase by 4.2 percent annually.
However, the five-member authority board earlier had decided to take increases on a year by year basis to determine if they could be curtailed. This is the first year the board has lowered the increase.